The Talented Mr. Ripley

Based on Patricia Highsmith's 1955 literary crime novel, this coolly beautiful film is both a superior thriller and an engrossing study of a sociopath's progress. Life hasn't been especially generous to Tom Ripley (Matt Damon); he's handsome and charming, to be sure, but he's also penniless, badly educated and without the connections that open doors for...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Based on Patricia Highsmith's 1955 literary crime novel, this coolly beautiful film is both a superior thriller and an engrossing study of a sociopath's progress. Life hasn't been especially generous to Tom Ripley (Matt Damon); he's handsome and

charming, to be sure, but he's also penniless, badly educated and without the connections that open doors for the more fortunate. Then coincidence throws wealthy Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn) Ripley's way. Greenleaf's shiftless son Dickie (Jude Law) is knocking around southern Italy,

squandering his allowance on jazz, women and liquor. Greenleaf hopes that Ripley, whom he thinks knew Dickie at college (a misconception Ripley fails to correct), might be willing to go to Italy and talk some sense into the boy. He'd pay of course... Ripley needs no persuasion to abandon his

cold-water flat for an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe. But he's not interested in getting Dickie to come home; instead Ripley befriends Dickie's well-bred girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), immerses himself in Dickie's favorite music and takes to Dickie's hedonistic lifestyle as though to the

manner born. The problem: Having tasted la dolce vita, Ripley must now figure out how to hang on to it. For movie buffs, Anthony Minghella's film labors in the shadow of Rene Clement's 1961 PURPLE NOON. But it's a fine thriller in its own right and actually truer to the novel; among other

things, neither Damon nor Minghella shies away from its homoerotic undertones. Minghella aspires to the look of glossy, late-'50s Hitchcock films (Hitchcock, of course, adapted Highsmith's perverse STRANGERS ON A TRAIN), all tainted glamour and swank corruption. He also embraces the cynical

sympathies that make Highsmith's books feel so unnervingly timeless, notably her clear-eyed understanding that not only does wickedness often go unpunished, but if it's packaged attractively enough, it's often actively rewarded.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Based on Patricia Highsmith's 1955 literary crime novel, this coolly beautiful film is both a superior thriller and an engrossing study of a sociopath's progress. Life hasn't been especially generous to Tom Ripley (Matt Damon); he's handsome and charming,… (more)

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